A three-week long search for victims of the Champlain Towers South condo collapse at Surfside comes to a close, but efforts are on to identify the remains found in the rubble.
The toll is now on the 95 bodies identified Miami-Dade County Police tweeted The latest victim is named Theresa Velasquez, 36, whose body was recovered on July 8. Two people are still missing and 241 have been traced.
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett pointed out that there are still challenges as search teams try to retrieve every victim, with the parking structure’s “bathtub” flooded with water, which continues to leak and crack. Miami Herald.
The numbers have fluctuated over the weeks as systems for reporting the dead and missing have changed. The death toll was put at 95, reflecting the release of another body from the debris on Tuesday.
But officials are now only using the number of victims identified in the official toll. “At this point, it’s difficult,” said Miami-Dade Police spokesman Carlos Rosario. “There are human remains that are being identified … It’s a scientific process, and we don’t want to say the wrong numbers. We take a step back.”
Miami-Dade police on Friday identified two more victims: Maria Popa, 79, who was pulled from the rubble on July 9, and Brad Cohen, 51, who was recovered on July 7.
Popa’s husband Mihai Radulescu, 82, was identified on Thursday. The couple had Unit 404. Cohen’s brother Gary, a visiting orthopedic surgeon from Alabama, was identified on July 8.
Amid the recovery effort, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal agency probing the collapse, released an update of its investigation Friday.
NIST is using remote sensing technology called lidar, drones and time-lapse cameras to aid in its investigation. At least 200 pieces of debris, including columns, beams and pieces of concrete, have been marked as evidence.
Investigators are also studying “Sister” Condo, Champlain Towers North, as they try to understand why Champlain Towers South collapsed around 1:30 a.m. on June 24. They have installed sensors on the building to measure the vibrations.
While the investigation is ongoing, efforts to initiate the process of selling the property were dialed back amid the backlash.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Heinzman began the process earlier this week, hoping that selling the site, valued at more than $100 million, would generate more cash for survivors and victims’ families. But during a hearing on Friday, he backed an accelerated sale, saying he had heard from some in the community who wanted the site to be reserved for a memorial or redeveloped for survivors to live in.
“Some people want it to be sold and the proceeds distributed immediately, some want to rebuild on the property,” said Michael Goldberg, a court-appointed attorney for the homeowners association of condos, local 10 news Reported. “And some people believe that this is holy land and that it should be a monument forever.”
“All competing interests will be considered before making any decisions,” Heinzmann said.
“We are very concerned about how the process is going to work,” Oren Citrinbaum, who has Unit 905 next to another, Unit 906, which belongs to his family from Canada, told the Herald. Those condos were on the front half of the building, which remained standing after the collapse but were later demolished by Miami-Dade County.
Citrinebaum, a lawyer herself, said there are two groups of people, Champlain condo owners and injured or dead victims, who must be reconciled: “It’s very hard to separate them” because “we know it’s going to be unfair.”